Memorial Day is a day of contradictory emotions for me. On one hand, I really get annoyed at the self-appointed Memorial Day Police who shame anyone who breaks out a burger or says “Thank you for your service” (THERES A VETERANS’ DAY FOR THE LIVING they exclaim). On the other hand, I never say Happy Memorial Day, because, well, it’s kind of an f’d up thing to say. Memorial Day is after all a day of remembrance for those who died in service to our nation.
Before I retired from the Army and moved to San Antonio I used to walk through the oldest sections of the National Cemetery at Leavenworth, KS. That section contained the graves of Civil War Soldiers and was arranged by date of death. I would replay the words to “Green Fields of France” as I walked the long rows of white headstones echoing for one last time the command “Dress Right, Dress!”.
How do you do, young Willy McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?
I’ll rest for a while in the warm summer sun
I’ve been walking all day, and i’m nearly done.
Here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s land,
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
To a whole generation that was butchered and damned
So if you want to grill out, plant flowers, or spread 9 cubic yards of gravel on your new patio (was that oddly specific?) please do. I intend to after I get the patio done. But please, take some time to consider the men and women to whom this day is dedicated; and to their mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, and friends who grieve their absence.
For me, I will be thinking about these men from the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment who didn’t get to come home with their friends in May 2008.
May they never be strangers without even names, forever enshrined behind some glass panes; in old photographs torn, tattered, and stained, and fading to yellow in brown leather frames.